Michelle Obama Makes the Founding Fathers Proud


Children from the Bancroft school help First Lady Michelle Obama plant the White House Vegetable Garden. Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton

There are many reasons I admire First Lady Michelle Obama—her intelligence and grace, her strong command of shade, and her commitment to food security just to name a few. Both praised and criticized for her commitment to encouraging kids to eat healthier, she led the initiative to have a proper veggie garden planted at the White House, a move that surely made our Founding Fathers, who were in fact “founding gardeners,” smile.

She’s upped the ante, making the garden a bit more permanent by adding hardscaped features—concrete, stone and steel—to the garden. And, after the Obamas leave office, the National Park Service will continue to maintain it with the help of a $2.5 million private fund.

From Politico:

“I take great pride in knowing that this little garden will live on as a symbol of the hopes and dreams we all hold of growing a healthier nation for our children,” Obama said in an emotional speech Wednesday afternoon as she dedicated the garden before an audience of advocates, food industry leaders and others who have helped with Let’s Move!, her signature childhood obesity campaign.

I have no doubt that the conservative right will see this as a slight; as some part of communist/socialist/fascist (because to them, they’re all the same right?) move. While the next administration could tear it up, the hardscape elements would make it more of a challenge. However, if anyone attempts to bulldoze the garden, it would be an un-American act.

You see, our Founding Fathers were avid gardeners. In the book, Founding Gardeners by Andrea Wulf, America’s first leaders were all about gardening. Jefferson and Adams would visit gardens and share knowledge and tips with botanists while they were in Europe on State business. Adams and I seem to share the same sentiment when dealing with long meetings an work obligations—F*** this, where’s the nearest garden?

Both Washington and Adams tried to bring agriculture to the forefront of the young country’s political agenda. When Hamilton proposed the country follow an industrial path, with commerce and trade at the forefront of the economy, Madison strongly resisted, arguing (along with Jefferson) that America should be an agrarian republic. Jefferson was highly suspicious of those who gained wealth through speculation, seeing agriculture as far more useful.

Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison all sought refuge in their natural environments—their gardens—when the pressures of running a country became too much. This is what we should remember when the right wing attacks Mrs. Obama—and they will, just watch—for taking this step to preserve the garden. Rather than a “commie pinko” idea, continuing the legacy of the garden is the most American thing one can do. In addition to showing people how to feed themselves and encouraging them to eat better, it brings us back to the original ideals of the Founders we praise. They fought for freedom from tyranny, and part of fighting that tyranny is being able to feed yourself from your own garden, whether you have a plot in the yard or a spot in a community garden.

One day, when the kids are a bit older and can appreciate the trip, I’d like to see the White House Garden myself, so I can get some gardening tips and inspiration to take back to my own garden. After all, it’s what the Founding Fathers would have done.


Life in a Garden

I love the saying, “Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes.” When life gets a wee bit too stressful for me, digging in the dirt is a great way to get perspective—unless it’s dark outside, then wine is the best way to get perspective.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the connections between gardening and life.
• You can’t control the outcome. As gardeners, we hope the seeds we plant will grow to be healthy and bountiful. However, it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes your tomatoes catch blight, your bok choi is infested with gnarly bugs, and your strawberries don’t produce as much fruit as you had hoped. No matter how much care you put into your plants, you may end up disappointed in the end.

You can’t control the outcome in life either. You could work your ass off in a job and get passed over for a promotion or fired. You could pour yourself into a relationship or friendship and not receive the love you deserve in return. The only things you can control are your actions, your emotions and your perceptions.
• It takes work. Gardening is hard work. There are always plants to water, weeds to pull and fruits to harvest. Even during the winter “off-season” you still have to plan for the next year, prepare your garden beds, and tend to the crops you planted in your cold frames. There’s no downtime; just less work during certain points of the year.

Life is work. Whether you’re working on advancing your career or tending to a relationship, you have to put in work. From the day my youngest son was born two months ago, it’s been all about baby. Compared to my 3 year old, who is very independent, the baby takes up more of my time even though he sleeps for most of the day. I know that every 3 hours, the baby will wake up, eat, maybe spend some time on his belly and then sleep. It’s all very predictable, and I know that I have to get as much as I can done within those three hours. Scheduling is my new friend!
 The harvest is sweet. Sometimes, quite literally. I don’t know about you, but when I pick that first snap pea or strawberry or plum, I’m stoked! I tell everyone I run into, snap photos with my phone and savor the first bite. There’s something special about the first and final harvests of the plants.

When you reap the rewards of your hard work, it’s the highest high. Landing your dream job or watching your child take his first steps is amazing. Can life get any better?


Feed Yo’Self…with Your Own Small Space Garden

Create a Small Space Edible GardenDon’t let a lack of yard prevent you from growing your own tasty and nutritious veggies this summer! It’s possible to grow most, if not all, of your favorites in containers that you set on your deck, patio or even a sunny window.

I’m teaching a small space gardening class through Skillshare to pass along what I’ve learned over my years of apartment living. Before I had the luxury of a huge garden, I grew everything in pots on the patio, both because I didn’t have a yard and because I moved so much (it’s nice to take your hard work with you!).

If you’re interested in learning more about small space gardening, then take the class!


Escape into a Book at the Saraiva Bookstore in Rio

There are two things I love—Good design and books. The Saraiva Bookstore in Brazil combines the two. According to the article, the architect—Arthur Casas—were going for a library meets public square feel. This four-floor store was designed for customers to immerse themselves in the reading experience and get exposed to different genres of books and other media. In short, it’s the perfect space to get lost in a book.

Photos from Arch Daily ©Fernando Guerra-FG+SG


Saraiva Bookstore 2_Fernando Guerra Saraiva Bookstore3_Fernando Guerra

The Homespun Movement: The ‘Buy Local’ of its Day

women spinning

Up here in Humboldt, there are pins and bumper stickers that urge people to buy local products. While the sentiment has gained popularity over the past decade, it’s one that played a big role in the founding of our nation. This fact that was brought to my attention in the newsletter for the online retailer, Zady, which featured the article Original Fashion Activists: Women of the American Revolution by Sabrina Rojas Weiss.

According to the article, and to other articles on the topic, women during the Revolution spun their own cloth and yarn to protest the taxes imposed by the British (much of which went to support King George III’s whoring son’s debts). Women had spinning bees and pledged their support the Homespun Movement.

The story strikes a chord for me, not just because I’ve recently become a member of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution, but also because some of my English ancestors were cloth manufacturers in Yorkshire, a trade which they brought with them when they came to the New World in the 1600s. I’d like to think that my 5th great-grandmother—whose father was a lieutenant in the militia in Vermont and her husband who served in the Massachusetts militia—took part in this protest, though I haven’t found proof to support it.

What Will You Be Remembered For?

St. Francis quote
I stumbled upon this quote while I was looking for quotes for work. In light of events from the past few weeks, this quote is especially timely.

Whenever someone passes, people begin sharing stories about the person—funny and touching anecdotes that offer a glimpse into the person’s character. This stroll down memory lane offers solace while helping us to honor the memory of the deceased. I remember my cheeks hurting from laughing so hard listening to the stories at my grandfather’s funeral. It made the mourning process easier to know that he truly lived a life full of humor and generosity, and it gave me insight into where my stubborn streak came from.

While many people go through live aspiring to have an abundance of material items, others live their lives inspiring others to be better, do more and impact the world around them. The best gauge of the quality of your life is seen in the lives of those you’ve impacted or inspired. The spirit of your life lives on in the actions of the people whose lives are better because you lived. That’s why I love this quote—it cuts through the b.s. to focus on what’s really important.